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Can anyone kindly tell me how to do Christmas in the UK?

(34 Posts)
NulliusInBlurba Tue 16-Oct-12 20:19:00

I don't mean please explain the intricacies of roast turkey and minge mince pies. grin
This Christmas will be the first time I've ever organised my own Xmas in Britain. I'm used to cooking The Big Meal abroad, though. But this time we'll be arriving late on the 21st at a holiday cottage and will have to buy EVERYTHING on the 22nd. We will have no food, no decorations, and only presents that can fit in a suitcase.
The cottage is out in the mountains, the nearest town has a smattering of rather good butchers and small greengrocers, a Waitrose, a Tesco Metro, and an Iceland (let's forget the Iceland please).
I've tried buying pre-ordered Christmas food from the Waitrose website, to be collected on the 22nd, but the system won't accept my credit card because it's not registered in the UK (although one of the big CC names) - I don't understand this, given that Waitrose is happy enough to accept my card in the store. But anyway, that's the position, can't change it. Sooo:
- How much Christmas stuff is sold out by the 22nd? Are we still likely to get a turkey breast from Waitrose, preferably prestuffed? I imagine the independent butchers will only do large preordered turkeys. More importantly, am I likely to still get the Heston Xmas pud with an orange in it? sad. I've been really looking forward to that one.
- Where can we get a small Xmas tree in a pot? Do the supermarkets do them or would a garden centre be more likely? How much would a small tree - 2 or 3 foot - cost?
- Would the Waitrose or Tesco Metro stock some Xmas decs? What about a shop in the nearest town that is a follow-on of Woolworths, with the same kind of stock? I don't want to spend more than a tenner on decs.
- Obviously we'll need to go for small Xmas prezzies, or the kids will have to accept they can only open them after we get back. Where would be good for some small, light stocking fillers, preferably useful things or those that can be consumed and won't take up suitcase space?
I'm terrified that we'll arrive and find everything is sold out, and our lovely British Christmas will be a disaster. We don't have any family (any more) who can buy stuff for us in advance (more sad).

All festive suggestions appreciated!

BillyBollyBandy Tue 16-Oct-12 20:21:43

I have 2 suggestions

Firstly, can you not get another supermarket to deliver or use a different card?
Secondly, pack enough Bolly and you won't give a shit

<helpful> grin

NulliusInBlurba Tue 16-Oct-12 20:26:28

"Secondly, pack enough Bolly and you won't give a shit"
Very tempting, but DH is not a big fan of the sparkly stuff - give him a bottle of whiskey and he'd be happy, though. grin I'll take the Bolly for me, of course.

I don't have a different card that could be used, because all our credit cards are
registered outside the UK (and as a non resident I can't get a UK one). By the way, I'm talking about Visa/Mastercard here, not some sort of obscure dodgy card. All very strange.
Not all supermarkets will deliver to the cottage (too far away), but I believe Tesco will, so that's certainly an option. I'll phone their customer support to ask before I register.

I did rather have my heart set on the orange pud, though...

JustGettingByMum Tue 16-Oct-12 20:30:59

Is it worth talking to the holiday cottage owners and asking if they could provide a small tree and some Xmas decs for when you arrive?

BoringSchoolChoiceNickname Tue 16-Oct-12 20:33:02

Do you have UK family who could order you the stuff on their credit card if you sent them a cheque?

BillyBollyBandy Tue 16-Oct-12 20:41:24

If Tesco will deliver then you could get literally everything from there I would imagine. You can certainly get the small trees from Sainsbury's so would think Tesco do them as well, def would do decs and you could also order some presents for the DC's.

NulliusInBlurba Tue 16-Oct-12 20:45:33

"Do you have UK family who could order you the stuff on their credit card if you sent them a cheque?" Unfortunately not, my mum died recently, ther's nobody else left. We were supposed to be spending Christmas with her, which is why we booked flights to the UK in the first place.

"Is it worth talking to the holiday cottage owners and asking if they could provide a small tree and some Xmas decs for when you arrive?"
It's a nice idea I might consider, but I've already tested her patience with several uptight questions about where certain things are in the cottage, and about finding it late at night, and how to get there if the weather is bad etc. She was really nice about answering though, so I could possibly ask her if she knows where to get a Xmas tree locally <lightbulb moment> - thanks for the inspiration.

Leading on from that, I could also ask the local tourist info if they have any ideas about what's available and where.

BillyBollyBandy Tue 16-Oct-12 20:46:43

Have you checked that they don't decorate? We were looking at hiring somewhere and many places do decorate for xmas now.

Felicitywascold Tue 16-Oct-12 20:47:12

Tesco delivery is your best bet.

Otherwise, ask the holiday cottage owners where they get there tree from, they may be able to either point you in the right direction or provide one for an extra cost.
If you have a car it might be best to drive a bit further to a bigger town to pick up everything you need. I wouldn't have thought things will be sold out by 22nd.

Try the nearest M&S as well, they do amazing Christmas food to pre-order.

NulliusInBlurba Tue 16-Oct-12 20:47:21

Xposted BBB, OK thanks, I'll deffo get in touch with Tesco tomorrow and hope that they'll take my CC - would be so much easier to get everything in one shop.

I#ve got some really good ideas now about where to go from here!

joanofarchitrave Tue 16-Oct-12 20:50:37

Back in the day quite a lot of people used to do the whole lot on Christmas Eve lunchtime. This is still perfectly possible, although i would shift it to the 23rd in order to enjoy Christmas Eve, aka the best part of Christmas.

However, I do think you should aim to let go of specifics - you will get perfectly good pudding, meat, presents, wine, but will feel a lot less stressed if you don't expect to get precisely the ones you want.

I would ring the butcher and greengrocer and make orders - I'm sure they would do you a crown or whatever you like really, and you might not even have to pay in advance.

I would take 1 present per family member but leave stockings to buy there - you could even make the present buying a game - everyone goes to town and has 2 hours to buy all their gifts?

I'm really surprised you can't get a cc in the UK. I live in Switzerland and I have a UK bank account with First Direct and a Virgin money credit card.

Still not a lot you can do about that now!!

Waitrose will let you order a turkey and collect it from the local branch before midday on Christmas eve if I remember.

Otherwise everything else should be fine. Just go early in the morning for the best veg. Sometimes parsnips run out if you leave it too late.

Will you be driving?

BoringSchoolChoiceNickname Tue 16-Oct-12 20:51:59

Oh nullis I'm so sorry. Hope you have a perfect Christmas.

NulliusInBlurba Tue 16-Oct-12 21:17:39

"However, I do think you should aim to let go of specifics - you will get perfectly good pudding, meat, presents, wine, but will feel a lot less stressed if you don't expect to get precisely the ones you want."

Oh dear, I am getting rather anally retentive about this, aren't I? smile You're right, I'll try to let go. I'm probably trying to compensate for so much having gone wrong recently, but perfectionism inevitably leads to disappointment <repeat 100 times>.

"I'm really surprised you can't get a cc in the UK. I live in Switzerland and I have a UK bank account with First Direct and a Virgin money credit card."
The guy from Barclays was assuring me recently about the impossibility of me getting a regular account - not having a British account was a nightmare when trying to sort out my mum's estate a month ago. Perhaps you had the account before you moved and just didn't close it (in which case the banks usually let you keep it going), or perhaps it's an expat account. To be honest, I've lived abroad for 20 years (hence have no experience of Christmas here as an adult) and this is the first time it's ever been a problem, so I'm not too motivated to get a new CC just to satisfy Waitrose and their bizarre conditions.

Hassled Tue 16-Oct-12 21:22:57

I'm sorry about your mum - this is going to be a hard Christmas for you (which of course is why you're fretting so much about the food and shit).

But really - you'll be with your DH and DCs, you'll be in a lovely-sounding place and if you end up eating Iceland sausages and oven chips then it will still be Christmas Day and it will still be good.

sittinginthesun Tue 16-Oct-12 21:29:12

Sorry about your mum.

I'm sure you could buy pretty much everything in one shop. We usually pre-order the turkey from M & S, but my mum always does the whole shop in sainsburys on the 23rd, and she's never had a problem. You might find that the decorations are a bit picked over, but the food should be fine.

ChippyMinton Tue 16-Oct-12 21:30:02

Sorry about your mum.

There's 3 shopping days until Xmas when you arrive and the supermarkets will be well-stocked, I'm sure, as most people will be doing their big shop then.

Just a thought, if you are flying in, can you do your shopping Friday evening en-route to the cottage? Most supermarkets will be open 24hrs in the run-up to Xmas.

Kincardine Tue 16-Oct-12 21:44:54

The only things I'd worry about are the xmas tree and the turkey (or whatever you choose).

If I wanted a small, potted tree I'd find a local garden centre and ask them to keep one for me. Almost certainly they will - and would probably be able to take a payment over the phone.

I'd also phone a local butcher and place an order with them. This shouldn't be difficult. Rather than turkey you could also consider, say, goose or Aylesbury duck or sirloin. Depends how good the butcher is and what they have access to. Also how many people you're feeding. Goose is brilliant and very traditional.

Everything else can easily be bought on the 22nd or 23rd.

bedmonster Tue 16-Oct-12 21:58:08

Actually our family quite often stay in a holiday cottage the week after Xmas and have often found that there is a xmas tree there already decorated.

And re the Heston pudding, maybe put out a plea to a local MNer to see if anyone could pick one up in advance for you?! grin

girlywhirly Wed 17-Oct-12 10:48:39

Our local butcher usually asks for a deposit in advance for Christmas orders from non-regular customers, they had to do this because they had loads of orders and were left with lots of uncollected ones one year. However, the ones closest to you will probably have lots of extras in stock so you should be able to get something. Ours does boned and rolled (and stuffed if you want) turkey breast roasts, might be just the thing for you. Helpfully, they also sell eggs and all sorts of chutneys and sauces too. Get fruit and veg from the greengrocers.

I'm so sorry to hear about your mum, I do understand how difficult it is having been through it myself (I lost both parents in one year, dad first, was due to spend Christmas with mum and she died in the Nov) Enjoy Christmas as best you can.

LaCerbiatta Wed 17-Oct-12 11:55:38

Ocado take foreign ccs. My mother has treated us to weekly shops de several times smile

Zorra Wed 17-Oct-12 19:26:06

We are going to a cottage in the Lake District for Xmas - if you're anywhere near there I'm happy to pre-order/pick stuff up for you to collect smile I also live overseas but have all my UK banking and what not still in place.

We also asked them on decorations: they have a small fake tree which is fine, will grab a few decs from the super market, and that will do.

Can you get things delivered to the cottage in advance? E.g. for present shopping, just so you could get a few bits which you know will be there?

charleybarley Wed 17-Oct-12 19:41:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NulliusInBlurba Wed 17-Oct-12 22:01:30

Thanks for all replies - will digest them all tomorrow. Today was not very successful, I discovered that Tesco will also not take my card. Good to know that Ocado will take it - I just need to check if they deliver to that area, as it's quite remote. If Ocado will deliver I think that might be the way forward. Lucky you tugamommy grin I'd rather not go to an M+S as the nearest one is a long way from the cottage.

I also mailed a local butcher and asked about a turkey breast (no reply as yet) and a local garden centre to ask about tree (also no response). And a mail to the local tourist info asking them about where to get various things (once more no reply) Do people actually reply to enquiry mails? Or are the email addresses on their websites there as a joke?
I'm really tempted by Charley's Christmas tree delivery site - will do further investigations.

Thanks for the offer Zorra. I'd love to be somewhere in the Lake District, but we'll actually be in the Brecon Beacons. A bit far to pop up and pick up goods! The local town I'm talking about with the Waitrose and Tesco is Abergavenny, but we're actually nearer to Crickhowell.

At least DD1 has announced she would be content with a Kindle for Christmas - that's nice and easy to carry smile

I'll investigate Ocado tomorrow - thanks again people. This is all so weird - I'd never heard of Ocado until I started using Mumsnet! Britain has changed so much, I feel like a foreigner a lot of the time.

charleybarley Thu 18-Oct-12 00:01:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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